Sunday, 26 August 2012

Atos Stories at Greenbelt

Way back in March, when Atos Stories was still in production, I knew I'd be at the Greenbelt festival later in the year. So we sent in an application to put on Atos Stories from scratch, the idea being to invite disabled and nondisabled people to get involved. This was rather an ambitious idea, and I have to say I was a bit relieved we were turned down. But, I still wanted Atos Stories to be there in some way.  As the year rolled on, we developed the Atos Monologues which is shorter and simpler to stage. When I discovered recently Greenbelt was having an open mic session, I jumped at the chance. And I was delighted that my thirteen year old daughter decided to join me after she watched the Dispatches/Panorama programme.

We were both a tad nervous beforehand. As I mentioned before I'm not an actor, and this was her first time speaking in public outside of school. But we needn't have worried. The lovely volunteers at the Roots Stage were warm and encouraging, we drummed up a large enough audience from twitter and posters round the site, and once we were up, we soon got in the flow. And it was a really useful exercise to see which bits worked well, and which need further editing.

We used 11 of the monologues, which intersperse the rhetoric of ministers, DWP, and Atos with the real accounts of people's experience of Atos. They build up story by story to culminate with the fact that 1,100 people died between January and August last year, after being placed in the WRAG. We ended with one story, well known to disabled campaigners. Karen Sherlock, who wrote to  us as Pusscat01, died in June 2012, two weeks after she finally won her fight to be placed in the support group. We are extremely grateful to Nigel, Karen's husband, for giving us permission to do this, and to Kaliya Franklin for allowing us to quote from emails Karen sent. It made for a powerful ending, which didn't just reduce some of the audience to tears, but me as well. Which is as it should be. If these stories don't make us weep - we're lost.

Greenbelt was a great platform to talk about Atos and to advertise the DPAC Atos Games (which also got a plug at the panel on welfare, where Sue Marsh spoke). And I was pleased to see there is growing awareness of what is happening with welfare, which means the campaign is building. It was also marvellous to hook up with Sue and Steve Sumpter on Saturday after a years worth of discussions by twitter. Thanks also to Steve for taking pictures of our first ever performance. A special thanks to my wonderful husband and children for their support, and particularly, my lovely thirteen year old who was amazing.

So there you go. It's as easy as that to put on the Atos Monologues. Anyone can do it anywhere. We are working on a revised version but please do feel free to download the current one here. We also have street theatre for use at protests, and for the more ambitious, a full length play, Atos Stories.

I opened yesterday by saying this week sees the launch of the Paralympics, sponsored by our friends at Atos. In response, Disabled People Against Cuts are coordinating the Atos Games up and down the country, with a Closing Ceremony at Atos on Friday. There's more information here

Also coming up soon,  Tom Greatrex, MP, has tabled a debate on Atos at the House of Commons for the 4th September. So why not write to your MP and ask them to support the motion?

A personal post from one of the collective

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